A brilliant re-interpretation of The Canterbury Tales for the 21st century, from one of the UK's foremost poets
Patience Agbabi was born in London in 1965 to Nigerian parents, but grew up in rural Wales with white foster parents. Featured on Channel 4 and renowned on the performance circuit, her debut collection R.A.W. won the 1997 Excelle Literary Award for poetry. Two further collections, Transformatrix (2000) and Bloodshot Monochrome (2008), were published by Canongate to great critical acclaim. Her poems have appeared on radio and television all over the world. She lives in London.
The liveliest versions of Chaucer you're likely to read - every page a virtuoso performance of language, character and story -- SIMON ARMITAGE Anyone giving a poetic echo to The Canterbury Tales needs exceptional imagination, human warmth and rhythmical energy; without them, the echo is doomed to fade. But Patience Agbabi has all these things and more: a completely appropriate sense of variety, fun, seriousness and good humour. Stirred all together, they make Telling Tales a compelling collection of story-portraits, at once contemporary and time-honoured. It's a wonderful achievement -- ANDREW MOTION Patience Agbabi has brilliantly created a Canterbury Tales for a multicultural Britain, about the oversexed and the losers, the damned and the blest, in rap, sestina, text, sonnets and rhyme royal. Responsive to their models in endlessly inventive ways, they are a treat to read, and even better if you know the originals. Chaucer would have been proud of what he has inspired -- HELEN COOPER, Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, University of Cambridge Patience Agbabi's Telling Tales is a brilliant, virtuosic take on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as spoken by a dazzling list of contemporary characters in a variety of contemporary idioms. Her use of received and improvised form is masterly, a great entertainment in itself, her wit and sense of poise remarkable. If Telling Tales is not one of the books of the year or in line for a major prize it will be proof the world has grown very dull indeed. This is a landmark book that extends the domain of poetry. Forget the diviison between live and page. This is live on the page -- GEORGE SZIRTES Telling Tales is a carefully constructed wonder tour. Agbabi is a genius. And this is her best work yet -- LEMN SISSAY Inventive, innovative and ingenious - Agbabi's take on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales zooms right into the 21st Century -- JACKIE KAY Telling Tales is a pilgrimage of punks, badasses, broken hearts, beat poets, silver-tongued fixers, town criers, beauties, sinners. A jostle of life; loud language, noise, sudden refection, quiet, pain. A busload of voices. A poem on wheels. Inventive, risky, serious and fun -- JEANETTE WINTERSON A rising star * * Observer * * Her poems draw on rap, jive and disco rhythms as much as the formal subtleties of free verse. Agbabi is a fine poet, and her linguistic wit carries satirical fire * * Daily Telegraph * * Thrilling. Has a multi-dimensional richness . . . A bold, brassy work * * Independent on Sunday on Transformatrix * * An energetic compendium of familiar stories translated into the contemporary idiom of street slang and slam poetry * * Times Literary Supplement * * The language is every bit as Chaucerian as Chaucer - ripe, rollicking and humorous - and Agbabi's redesigned pilgrims are as much a mixed bag as the originals * * The Times * *